Having won 40 major trophies to date, Arsenal are the most successful club in English women’s football. However, after winning the first two Women’s Super League titles, the tide has turned.
Since the end of the last campaign, despite winning the Continental Cup final against Notts County, there is a serious chance that Arsenal could be left chasing both Chelsea and Manchester City.
For so long, Arsenal were the torch bearers, paving the way for women’s football in Britain, and when you look across all the current WSL teams, very few of the top players haven’t played for the Gunners at some point in their career.
Bankrolled by the City Group, Manchester City Women are looking to dominate the English game for the foreseeable future. Many believe that the end of the season came too soon, and given a couple of more fixtures, it would have been Nick Cushing’s side that lifted the WSL trophy.
Emma Hayes at Chelsea would no doubt laugh at that claim, with her side undoubtedly boasting the best attack in the country. Bringing in Fran Kirby after the Women’s World Cup completed the jigsaw of Chelsea’s frontline – added to Eni Aluko, Gemma Davison and Ji So-yun – and they were unstoppable. Karen Carney has also joined from Birmingham City, giving Hayes more options in the final third, helping the club rotate and mix it up.
City have brought in Jane Ross during the break, with the hope that the Scotland striker can bring added experience and killer instinct as their new centre-forward. It is also hard to imagine either club not doing any more business during the winter.
Speaking after their Continental Cup victory, Arsenal boss Pedro Martinez Losa, speaking to the Offside Rule, was not convinced there was a gap to bridge. “My feeling is that we are very close. In the games we played against them, with all the conditions, all the players missing, we beat Manchester City twice and we beat Chelsea in the Continental Cup.
In the two games at home in the league, we didn’t have key players, which is not an excuse, but if Arsenal in the men’s game have to play one game without Mesut Özil, Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla, it’s not easy.
“I think the difference is minimal, we are getting closer and closer, that’s our opinion.”
While the Arsenal Ladies do have the use of the club’s training centre at London Colney in Hertfordshire, there are rumours of a new stadium being built – similar to the CFA in Manchester – which would be a huge boost for Losa’s team.
Another huge boost came this week as the long-awaited signing of Fara Williams was confirmed. Signing England’s most capped player is a great show of force from Arsenal, making it clear they are not willing to see Chelsea and City pull away into the distance.
The two-time WSL winner was impressed with Arsenal last season and believes it can only bode well for the future. “They showed how close they have been in the league,” she told Arsenal.com. “They have been unlucky not to finish in the top two.
“They dropped some silly points and I think that let them down, but they won the Continental Cup and that showed what they are capable of. It wasn’t an easy game in the Continental Cup [final] but they certainly made it look easy.”
Add Williams to a fully-fit Arsenal squad, and there is little doubt they will have the ability to compete this season. The WSL needs competition to attract fans, and all three clubs are making sure that this campaign will be as intriguing as ever.
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